Nikon Z9 Hands-on Review: Is this Nikon’s most impressive camera ever?


posted Friday, January 14, 2022 at 3:50 PM EST

Click here to read our Nikon Z9 Hands-on Review


After a long wait following the initial announcement of the Nikon Z9 back in March 2021, we have finally had the chance to go hands-on with Nikon's new flagship mirrorless camera. The new 45.7-megapixel camera incorporates a pro-level dual-gripped design, a brilliant new blackout-free Real-Live Viewfinder, full-res RAW shooting at 20 frames per second, a new autofocus system, 8K/30p video and much more. On paper, it's Nikon's most impressive, capable camera ever. But how does it perform in real-world testing?

It's no secret that Nikon's transition to mirrorless hasn't been quite as smooth or as financially successful as Nikon might have hoped. That isn't to say that Nikon hasn't been releasing good cameras – because they have been – and that also doesn't mean that the Z system lacks good native glass – it doesn't. However, the Z system has lacked a true pro-level camera to continue the excellent legacy of DSLRs like the Nikon D5 and D6. The new Nikon Z9 channels the spirit of the D6 but makes significant strides in technology and performance, including the shift to a much higher-resolution 45.7-megapixel sensor. It makes the D6's 20.8-megapixel sensor seem quite antiquated in comparison.


The 45.7-megapixel sensor incorporates a newly developed stacked sensor design. The move to a stacked sensor results in a much faster readout speed, which, when paired with the EXPEED 7 processor, results in improved performance across the board. The Z9's image quality impresses, too, with the camera delivering sharp, detailed images with excellent tonality and color accuracy across a wide range of ISO settings.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8 S lens at 38mm, F8, 25s, ISO 64. This image has been edited.

The Z9 includes a new autofocus system as well, which reintroduces Nikon's famed 3D Tracking technology to the Z system for the first time. The camera has new automatic subject detection performance, improved Auto-area AF performance and all-around faster and more accurate autofocus. In use, the improved autofocus is incredible and is significantly better than the already impressive autofocus in the Z6 II and Z7 II cameras.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8 S lens at 70mm, F2.8, 1/2000s, ISO 3200. This image has been edited.

The Nikon Z9's usability is enhanced significantly by the Real-Live Viewfinder. The electronic viewfinder is completely blackout-free and delivers fantastic sharpness and smoothness no matter the situation. This is made possible by the Z9's fast readout speed, processing power, and because the camera eschews a mechanical shutter, relying exclusively on an electronic shutter.

Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8S lens at 39mm, F13, 1/50s, ISO 64. This image has been edited.

There is much more to say about the Nikon Z9, including a detailed look at the camera's excellent design, fast performance, good image quality and impressive video features. To read all about the Z9, head to our Hands-on Review.

Nikon Z9 Hands-on ReviewGallery